Guest post by Savannah Est of Washington University in St. Louis;
On a normal day for the Washington University Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery (WUIMIS) Biomaterials lab, the clicking and buzzing of multiple 3D printers building objects simultaneously is the first thing you notice as you walk through the door. Home to 5 different types of 3D printers, ideas and devices are being printed as fast as possible to keep up with the demand for medical 3D printing for researchers, clinicians, and surgeons at Washington University. From modeling kidney tumors for surgeons to practice on before they operate to printing the curvature of a hernia patient’s muscle defect, to even building prosthetic arms for pediatric amputees, the WUIMIS lab is able to apply the cutting edge of 3D printing technology to almost every field of medicine.The setup of the WUIMIS lab at Washington University is this: Any person or organization in St. Louis or across the country is able to approach us with a problem or a 3D printing challenge, and we are able to troubleshoot, brainstorm, design, and print whatever it is they need for a small fee. As more and more researchers and clinicians have begun to recognize how essential 3D printing is for the field of medicine, we have received more and more complicated requests, and in the summer of 2015, we realized that we needed to explore more advanced 3D printing technology methods in order to keep up with this rapidly advancing field of medicine.
We searched for a long time looking for a way to bring our 3D printing research and application capabilities to the next level, and only found technologies that were either extremely expensive or inconsistent—that is, until we found BioBots. As a partner in its Beta testing program, we were able to get our hands on their easy to use bioprinter and experiment with what kinds of bioinks we could print with. Now, we aren’t just a 3D printing service, but a bioprinting service. In addition to printing models made of plastic, we now have the capabilities to print cells in predetermined 3D architechtures, which is revolutionizing the way we think about not only 3D printing, but medicine as well. As a part of the BioBots community, we are able to bring this technology to both the Washington University community and the Greater St. Louis community, as we accept requests from anyone interested.
With the growing demand for our 3D printing services, the WUIMIS Biomaterials lab is optimistic about the potential for this technology to impact medical science and patient care. We owe many thanks to BioBots for working with us as Beta testers and look forward to exploring the various applications of the new technology, such as in the production of novel, bio-compatible, anti-bacterial materials and custom bio-reactors.